Keeping burns under control
August 7, 2012
A controlled burn is the only fire we know of that goes down as the sirens from responding firefighters get louder. According to witnesses and the investigation into the TRE fire, that’s exactly what happened on May 20 when neighbors reported seeing flames above the trees from a controlled burn.
By the time firefighters arrived on scene, what was once a pretty roaring fire had been reduced to a smoldering pile. Residents who were burning had their permit, they were burning on a permissive day and it looked like they had the fire under control.
A little counseling, a few instructions and then emergency personnel were off dealing with other calls elsewhere in Topaz Ranch Estates that morning.
Neighbors could be forgiven for thinking that firefighters worked on the burn. Afterall, they heard the sirens, they saw the trucks, some even heard shovels, and when the trucks were gone, the fire looked pretty much out.
And there it would have remained, had the burn not provided the spark that set a big portion of Topaz Ranch Estates on fire, raging through two homes, nearly a score of outbuildings and a similar number of vehicles, boats and trailers.
We’re not sure what changes the East Fork Fire District might make to the open burn policy to prevent future TRE fires, but we do have a suggestion.
It appears to us that the means the district has to control burning is whether the weather will permit people to safely burn. May 20 was a pretty nice day, without any wind, but May 21 was a red flag warning day, and May 22 was pretty windy. The TRE fire wasn’t the first time someone’s controlled burn was caught by high winds the next day and blown up into something bigger.
We know firefighters aren’t weather forecasters, but a look to the future might not hurt when determining a good day to burn.
As for burners, the TRE fire is a terrible way to learn that it’s up to you to make sure your fire’s out. Let’s all at least learn from it.